Final act of Jackson drama begins in LA

Doctor pleads not guilty to manslaughter as full autopsy report is released on internet

The charge, when it was read out, consisted of the two words that Michael Jackson's former physician, Dr Conrad Murray, and his team of headline-prone lawyers never wanted to hear: involuntary manslaughter.

In front of ashen-faced members of the singer's family, prosecutors revealed that they believe the Grenada-born Doctor "did unlawfully, and without malice, kill Michael Joseph Jackson" by acting "without due caution and circumspection" in the run up to his fatal cardiac arrest last June. The announcement yesterday lunchtime brought two-dozen satellite vans, several hundred reporters and a smattering of placard-wielding fans to the Superior Court near Los Angeles airport – and had America's rolling news networks licking their lips in anticipation of yet another sensational celebrity trial.

Dr Murray, who was with Jackson at his rented house in Holmby Hills on the night before his death, turned up in a light grey suit and red tie to shouts of "murderer" from some fans. He remained silent throughout the hearing, except to say "yes" in a soft voice when asked if he understood the charge against him.

After pleading not guilty, Dr Murray was released on $75,000 (£48,000) bail. That figure is three times the standard amount for such cases, but significantly less than the $300,000 that prosecutors were seeking. Judge Keith L Schwartz has also confiscated Dr Murray's passport to prevent him fleeing.

The doctor faces up to four years in prison if found guilty, but can draw at least a crumb of comfort that he will not face the more serious charge of second degree murder, which had been backed by the late singer's family. He is next due to appear in court on 5 April and last night his lawyer said he planned to return to his medical practices in Houston and Las Vegas while he awaits trial, although state officials said they plan ned to ask the court to suspend his medical license while he is out on bail.

Several members of the Jackson clan, including his mother Kathryn, father Joe, brothers Jermaine, Randy and Tito, and sister LaToya were at the courthouse. "Looking for justice," was all Joe Jackson said as he arrived. Dr Murray's attorney, Ed Chernoff, for his part promised to: "fight like hell".

Prosecutors did not reveal details of their case but when it eventually reaches trial Dr Murray is likely to be accused of negligently giving his client a dangerous cocktail of prescription drugs in the hours before he died. The coroner's report into Jackson's death, which was also made public on the internet yesterday, suggests that Dr Murray will be asked to explain why his 50-year-old patient was found to have propofol, valium, lorazepam and midazolam in his body.

All of the drugs are dangerous in large quantities and should never normally be mixed. The report says that 13 other drugs were found at the scene of Jackson's death, along with oxygen tanks, needles, catheters, and a closed bottle of urine.

An autopsy established that Jackson's hair was "sparse" and "connected to a wig", and concluded that propofol was most likely to have killed the star. It is a powerful sedative also known as "milk of amnesia" and should only normally be administered in a medical setting, since it depresses breathing and heart rate while also lowering blood pressure.

Dr Murray injected Jackson with the drug in his bedroom, rather than a hospital. As part of his bail, Judge Schwartz has now banned him from providing sedatives to any remaining clients.

During a seven-month investigation into Jackson's death, police interviewed Murray on several occasions. The doctor maintains that his client demanded the drugs to combat insomnia, which had been blighting his attempt to rehearse for an unlikely series of lucrative comeback concerts at the O2 in London.

Prosecutors are likely to claim that Dr Murray, who had been having financial problems, agreed to act as an "enabler" to Jackson, who was addicted to prescription drugs. The singer's concert promoters were paying him $90,000 (£58,000) a month to act as the star's personal physician.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Laser and Router Operative

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Laser and Router Operative is...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 1st Line

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have been providing local ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive / Trainee Managers

£6000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for smart, orga...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones